This is, as far as we know, Paul's last letter. He writes it from prison in Rome around AD 67/68. He is awaiting execution, and it is clear that his thoughts in this letter are not rooted in his imminent death, but in the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus (1:1).
The letter is addressed to Timothy, whom he calls “my beloved child” (1:2;2:1). He is not his biological child of course, but his son in the faith. He is Timothy’s father in the gospel. (1 Cor. 4:15). Timothy is a pastor of the congregation in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), and as I said to you in my introductory words when I preached through 1 Timothy in 2016:
“…these pastoral epistles were written by Paul to these younger colleagues in the ministry in order to provide pastoral help and counsel for the many and varied situations which these younger men and pastors encountered in their respective situations. The pastoral epistles address a number of timeless issues that churches experience, and it is therefore of great value for us to learn from the wisdom of the God inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16,17) and so to avoid the common pitfalls and traps into which so many pastors and churches throughout the ages have fallen…” 
One of the great privileges of being older in the faith is that we have seen God at work in so many different ways. We have seen and experienced and tasted God’s faithfulness in so many ways, and the knowledge and experience of this helps us to encourage those that are younger in the faith.
At the beginning of this year of our Lord, 2018 I want to speak to you about ‘Fearless Service’, and I am of course referring to fearless service in the service of God, and my text is found in verse 7: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self- control.”
What I want to do is to look at the man, Paul who made this statement, and I want to look at the man Timothy, to whom he made this statement, and finally I want us to appropriate these Scriptures to ourselves,as we think about serving our Lord without fear in 2018.
1. Paul : Our model of fearless service
In doing so I must not tempt you to think of Paul as a perfect man. Paul does not claim perfection (Phil. 3:12), and he confesses his own weakness readily (2 Cor. 12:9). But Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God (1:1a) …. Paul is not claiming to be a self -made man. He is a God -made, God- called, God - equipped man! He is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus (1:1b). The fact of the matter is that Jesus took hold of Paul according to the story told in Acts 9, and this religious man, this well trained Pharisee was born again and he became a great, life giving tool, for the conversion and sanctification of many in the hand of God. And many are still born again, and many are still being sanctified when they read the inspired words of Paul in our own day. He was a man, but he was a man in the hand of God, and his grace to him was not in vain. It was effective (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul’s amazing biography is found in his second letter to the Corinthians. There we read (e.g. 2 Cor.11:16-28) how he persevered in fearless service, under many trying circumstances. He feared man little. He feared his circumstances little, although they were painful. He feared God more. And he looked forward to his eternal reward, which the death that he was facing could not take from him, because he understood the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.
The Christian life is a life that is undergirded by God’s grace, mercy and peace (1:2). These are the spiritual blessings that God has given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and these make us able to do fearless service in this world. God’s grace is His unconditional favour to those who believe, and his grace is always sufficient for every situation (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s mercy is His love for His undeserving people, and Paul speaks about that in 1 Timothy 1:13-16. God’s peace is the accompanying sense of well-being (Shalom), when we know that God is in charge of our situation. The peace of God which passes all understanding guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7). This enables Paul to be fearless, not because he is macho, but because he knows himself to be in the hand of God.
Now, to take this further, we must note that this apostle, who is so very secure in the knowledge and the experience of His Saviour, is also a man of prayer (1:3). Fearless men and women know about prayer, and they practise habitual prayer. As we prepare to learn about Timothy, we note that Paul constantly remembers Timothy in His prayers. I would like to say something about prayer in this regard. Prayer is the joy of those who know that apart from God they can do nothing. I have studied Paul’s epistles over and over and I see that he is a man of prayer. He has understood that his effective work as an apostle is by the grace and mercy of God alone.
Prayer then is the mark of a courageous, fearless Christian, and it is not surprising for it portrays confidence in God. Your prayer life, rooted in your knowledge of the Word of God (or the absence of it), will tell you everything you are before God, and if you are not much with God in prayer, then you are your own man or woman, and if this is so, you will be easily overtaken by the fear of man.
Paul was praying for Timothy. Paul believed in the help which we would receive from the prayers of others (2 Cor. 1:10,11) But apart from that it is wonderful to know that godly people are praying for you, and we in the church must indeed learn to diligently pray for one another (Eph. 6:18). And it is not just about repeating a prayer list. Paul prayed for Timothy with real love and affection and longing.
"I thank God...as I remember you.” Again, note that Paul is not fixated on his own fear as he is in prison, awaiting death. Instead, Paul exhibits a life of thankfulness for the life of others. He was thinking about others.
2. Timothy : Learning to become fearless in Service:
1:4 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Timothy had a Jewish mother and a grandmother who had become believers in the Lord Jesus. His father, we learn in Acts 16:1 was a Greek pagan man. His conversion is never mentioned. These godly women and Timothy were probably all converted under Paul’s evangelistic ministry.
The work of God in the soul of man is always work in progress. Salvation is a dynamic concept. And so conversion, repentance, faith must be followed by sanctification , and it is here that we find that God has much work to do in Timothy.
You see it in 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God...”. Timothy has been called to shepherd the flock of God in Ephesus. But he is a man like all of us. At times we get slack, or hold back, being fearful of making a commitment, and at times we need someone to tell us to get going and use that which God has put into us by way of a spiritual gift.
Spiritual gifts are for spiritual service, and these spiritual gifts are given to us by God . They do not operate automatically. We must use that gift and practise to use it. We must fan it into flame and keep it going. In that sense our spiritual gifts are like natural gifts. If you have an athletic gift, you will not become a great athlete unless you train diligently. Someone may have a natural musical ability, but they need to practise and develop and stir up that gift. Marcelle’s brother who sang in the Drakensberg Boys choir, and was a soloist in his day, portrayed a clear musical talent and a singing gift at a very young age. But he was trained at that school, and he was taught to perform and use his gift. You have got to cultivate those gifts. So, why is it that we do not want to use our spiritual gifts to the glory of God and for the benefit of the church?
1:7 gives us an indication. Following his statement on the spiritual gift, Paul says to Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Apparently, Timothy was by nature somewhat timid. He was inclined to hold back, perhaps because he was a nervous person. He had stomach problems and other ailments (1 Tim 5:23). Stomach problems are often associated with nervous conditions. He was young and he was leading a church, and as you can imagine, that was not easy. Paul had to encourage him frequently in that regard (1 Tim 4:13 , and again this text speaks of the spiritual gift). Timothy was tempted to hold back, because of his temperament and bodily ailments, but Paul reminds him : ‘Timothy, we haven't been given a spirit of fear (or timidity), but a spirit of power and of love, and of self- control (discipline)...’. The fact is that God has called Timothy into service, despite his temperamental disadvantages and despite his bodily weaknesses.
God has equipped him, and his temperament and bodily ailments are no hindrance, and thus I remind you that our competency and confidence in ministry is never in ourselves, but in the God who calls and equips us. We are fearless in Christian ministry, not because we have a natural ability to be macho, but we know Who stands behind us, and because we know Who has equipped us with everything good to do His will.
3. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION :
From verses 1&2 we learn that Christians draw strength in their trials because of their knowledge of God's providence, His will, and His promises. Every Christian is able to serve God, not with self-confidence, but with confidence in God, and in His promises. Grace, mercy and peace are foundational gifts and blessings to every believer, and Paul's words, are a comfort if we will listen. If we attempt to minister on God’s behalf in our own strength, we will be broken, and we will either live in denial or in bitterness. Paul could live and minister in power and love and self- control because he believed...he knew God's will and God's promise.
In v. 3 we learn that prayer is the hallmark of a person that trusts not themselves but God. It becomes one of the hallmarks that undergird fearless service. Paul knows whom he has believed (see 1:12).
And so he is freed from the curse of human fear and what man can do to him. Therefore he is able to focus on others. In this instance he is thinking about Timothy and He is thanking God for the life of Timothy. This mind-set is not found much in our culture. We tend to think too much of ‘what I need’. We think too much of - ‘Is God meeting my needs? Is the church meeting my needs?’ For Paul this is the last thing on his mind. Because he is God's man he is able to let God take care of him , and this gives him time and space to think of others who are not there yet. This, I say is counter-cultural thinking, and this is what God calls us to do and to be- to be not like the world.
This radical God centeredness is what leads to fearless service. Look at verse 7 again. Christians serve with a power and strength that cares for others wisely – with real power, real love and real self- control. This, I submit to you is profound thinking, and may this help you to trust God and to really have a heart for fearless service in 2018 . Amen